Bulls trying to take away positives from necessary team meeting

Bulls trying to take away positives from necessary team meeting

More details about the Bulls’ team meeting are starting to trickle out, following a tumultuous 48-hour period that culminated in a lifeless performance against the Miami Heat Friday night—a showing so bad, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg only chose to show individual clips as opposed to the full game film Saturday.

Despite how bad the Bulls looked, veteran forward Taj Gibson said the meeting was necessary and he highlighted a few points with the media after Saturday’s practice.

Considering Gibson was present for the Tom Thibodeau-Bulls front office battles of years’ prior and lived to tell about it, he said this recent drama doesn’t rank too high on his scale.

“Probably about a 4, 4 or 5 maybe. I've seen worse,” Gibson said. “But how we handled it, it was a good thing. We talked it out, get everybody going, get some things off guys' chests. It was a good thing. I didn't take anything negative from it.

“It was intense. Guys got it out. Guys and coaches were able to really speak what they want from guys. Guys challenged each other and it was good to hear from all members of the team, especially our young guys, what they need, what they want. I think it was a positive.”

Bulls VP John Paxson spoke, as well as Hoiberg addressing concerns about his own coaching style, along with some of the young players who were criticized by Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler calling for more from Wade on the practice floor.

Wade, who at 35 years old is open about keeping his body fresh and doesn’t practice all the time, practiced Saturday in response to the young players. It should be noted that was one of Rajon Rondo’s points of contention on his Instagram post Thursday afternoon.

“That’s one of the things in the meeting,” Gibson said. “Young guys just want a little bit more from him. He brung it today. He pushed the young guys. And that’s a sign that that meeting did a little something. It’s all about positive.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The message of positivity couldn’t be seen on the floor Friday, as the Bulls were so emotionally spent from the meeting and the drama, they were in no condition to compete at a level necessary to beat a Heat team that came in on a roll.

“I felt like that morning just sucked so much energy out of the game, the game plan, guys were just so focused on how to get out of that situation in the morning because there was a lot of words being said, a lot of tempers,” Gibson said.

Which brings the Bulls to Paxson, who can certainly be fiery behind the scenes. But Gibson said Paxson spoke from a position of compassion and not one from the ivory tower of an executive. Paxson, of course, played with Michael Jordan, a man notoriously tough on teammates at times in his playing days.

“Pax spoke and his message was positive,” Gibson said. “But his message was real humbling and just from a players' perspective, it wasn't from like a GM or your boss kind of perspective. It was like a player-player perspective of how he played and how it was and how to rectify it. It was a good talk from him.”

Gibson would’ve preferred a lot of the criticism to stay in-house but had no choice to admit things could take a positive turn—although Friday night gave little indication of immediate positive returns.

“Sometimes people don't really mean what they say,” Gibson said. “The next day after reading it in the papers or reading it from the media or the TVs, you kind of look at yourself and you kind of come in like, 'I didn't really mean it in that kind of way.' And then people will be able to speak freely to what they really mean and other guys get to chime in. It was good for the team. I think it was a positive.”

And with all that’s gone on, Gibson points out the Bulls are still in the playoffs currently and still have plenty of time to make something out of an up and down Eastern Conference.

“You look at we’re fortunate to be in the East. We’re fortunate to have everybody going through the same problems we’re going through,” Gibson said. “This is a blessing, a great opportunity.”

Bulls player preview: Cristiano Felicio gives center depth


Bulls player preview: Cristiano Felicio gives center depth

NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Ryan Arcidiacono | Antonio Blakeney | Coby White | Daniel Gafford | Wendell Carter Jr. | Luke Kornet

How last year went

There might have been a path to significant minutes for Cristiano Felicio, but the Bulls wound up drafting Wendell Carter with the seventh pick and keeping Robin Lopez through the duration of his contract. Felicio saw an uptick in minutes after Carter suffered a season-ending thumb injury in January, but he didn’t do much with it.

His best stretch came over the final 11 games of the season when Felicio averaged a modest 7.0 points on 51.7% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 21.9 minutes. He’s still a liability defensively, doesn’t have great hands, and 89 of his 95 made field goals were inside 10 feet.

Expectations for this year's role

Something has gone very wrong if Felicio logs any minutes this season. The Bulls quietly overhauled the position, departing with Lopez, drafting Daniel Gafford in the second round and signing Luke Kornet. It’s suddenly one of the Bulls’ deepest positions – with Wendell Carter Jr. in line for 30+ minutes a night – meaning Felicio is fourth on the depth chart with no real ability to contribute at power forward.

Where he excels

Felicio doesn’t have the surest of hands, but he has always looked comfortable rolling to the rim. It began with lobs from Dwyane Wade and has continued the last two seasons with guards like Ryan Arcidiacono finding him around the rim. Last year Felicio averaged 1.10 points per possession on pick-and-roll possessions, third on the Bulls behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. He also scored on 56.5% of those possessions (made field goal or free throws), which edged out Carter for the team lead. Of course, he was limited in not having a perimeter shot to pop out for 3-pointers, but he was a surprisingly nice roll man in his limited minutes.

Where he needs work

Felicio had a Defensive RPM of -1.63 last season, which was the second-worst mark among centers (only Willy Hernangomez was worse). The Bulls were 2.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Felicio off the floor, and the Brazilian big had just 11 steals and seven blocks in 746 minutes. It’s not a stretch to say he’s the team’s worst defender. It’s tough to see him improving in that area after four seasons.

Best case/worst case

In a best-case scenario, Felicio shows an improvement on the defensive end and finds some early-season chemistry with Kris Dunn on pick-and-roll action. He’ll be given a chance to compete with Gafford and Kornet for the backup center position. In a worst-case scenario, his deficiencies plague him and he continues to be an $8 million benchwarmer. Most likely, the Bulls continue counting down the days until his salary is off the books.

One key stat

Cristiano Felicio had 7 blocks in 746 minutes last season. How rare is that for a 6-foot-10 player? He’s the only NBA player the last two seasons that tall (or taller) to block seven or fewer shots in at least 740 minutes. The last player to do it was Joffrey Lauvergne in 2017, who blocked just six shots in 980 minutes (he incredibly blocked zero shots for the Bulls in 241 minutes; if you thought the OKC trade couldn’t get worse, you were wrong).

Report: Bulls to add Justin Simon on Exhibit 10 contract

Report: Bulls to add Justin Simon on Exhibit 10 contract

According to reports, the Bulls have signed former St. John's guard Justin Simon to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Simon played three seasons of NCAA basketball, one year with Arizona and two years at St. John's under the tutelage of NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin.

The Exhibit 10 contract is a fairly new situation, allowed by the NBA's last Collective Bargaining Agreement. What it means is that a player under this type of contract will get the league's minimum salary on a non-guaranteed deal that can include bonuses up to $50,000. 

The deal will allow Simon to participate in training camp with the Bulls with the goal of making the roster. The most likely scenario in these situations—i.e. when a player does not make the NBA roster— is that the player is waived before the season starts and assigned to that team's NBA G League affiliate.

So in layman's terms, Bulls fans should expect to see Simon in Hoffman Estates with the Windy City Bulls for the 2019-20 season, that is, as long as he doesn't choose to play overseas or elsewhere. With an Exhibit 10 contract, there are two ways a player can guarantee the full amount of their bonus money: spending at least 60 days on the G League affiliate team or getting their Exhibit 10 deal converted into a Two-Way contract (G League+ NBA deal combined, paid based on what league you are playing in at the time).

Simon is an intriguing add for the Bulls. Currently, the Chicago roster doesn't contain any guards shorter than 6-foot-3, and at 6-foot-5 with a massive 6-foot-11 wingspan, Simon certainly fits the mold.

Simon was the 2018-19 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, finishing in the top 10 in the Big East in both blocks and steals. In his junior year, he was also solid offensively, scoring 10.4 points per game while racking up 104 total assists over 34 games.

We all know how Jim Boylen loves players with the "dog" mentality and Simon's aggressive defense surely caught the eye of Boylen and the Bulls front office. 

In the 2019-20 NBA Summer League, Simon played for the Bulls, averaging 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Unfortunately, Simon did not make a single 3-point shot over his NBA Summer League stint with the Bulls but he has shown the ability to hit the 3-point shot at times at the NCAA level. For his college career, he was a 35.1 percent 3-point shooter but those figures were helped by his sophomore season in which he hit 15 of his 36 shots from deep (41.7 percent).

Simon is not likely to shoot it well from the outside right away at the professional level but this is an important thing to monitor as his jump shot—as with most highly-skilled defensive players—will be the swing skill that will impact his ability to potentially make the NBA roster. 

The Bulls reportedly start training camp on October 1 and fans will likely get their first chance to see Simon in action at the first preseason game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on October 7 on NBC Sports Chicago.


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